Test Catalog

Test ID: TRYPA    
Tryptase, Autopsy, Serum

Useful For Suggests clinical disorders or settings where the test may be helpful

Assessing autopsy cases for mast cell activation, which may occur as a result of anaphylaxis or allergen challenge


Assessing patients with systemic mastocytosis or mast cell activation syndrome

Clinical Information Discusses physiology, pathophysiology, and general clinical aspects, as they relate to a laboratory test

Tryptase, a neutral protease, is present within the secretory granules of human mast cells. There are 2 forms of tryptase, designated as alpha and beta, which are encoded by 2 separate genes. Both are expressed as inactive proenzymes. Alpha-protryptase and beta-protryptase are spontaneously released from resting mast cells. The levels of the protrypases reflect the total number of mass cells within the body, but are not an indication of mast cell activation. Beta-protryptase is processed to a mature form, which is stored in granules and released as an active tetramer that is bound to heparin or chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans. In contrast, an amino acid change in alpha-protryptase prevents processing to a mature form. Upon mast cell activation, degranulation releases mature tryptase, which is almost exclusively in the form of beta-tryptase.


After anaphylaxis, mast cell granules release tryptase; measurable amounts are found in blood, generally within 30 to 60 minutes. The levels decline under first-order kinetics with a half-life of approximately 2 hours. By comparison, histamine (another immunologic mediator released by activated mast cells) is cleared from blood within minutes. Increased serum levels may also occur after allergen challenge or in patients with systemic mastocytosis or mast cell activation syndrome.

Reference Values Describes reference intervals and additional information for interpretation of test results. May include intervals based on age and sex when appropriate. Intervals are Mayo-derived, unless otherwise designated. If an interpretive report is provided, the reference value field will state this.

No established reference values

Interpretation Provides information to assist in interpretation of the test results

Increased concentrations of total tryptase may indicate mast cell activation occurring as a result of anaphylaxis or allergen challenge, or it may indicate an increased number of mast cells as seen in patients with mastocytosis. However, no specific cutoff value has been validated for autopsy specimens.

Cautions Discusses conditions that may cause diagnostic confusion, including improper specimen collection and handling, inappropriate test selection, and interfering substances

Tryptase may be undetectable or not elevated in some patients with acute mast cell activation if specimens are obtained greater than 12 hours after an anaphylactic episode.

Clinical Reference Recommendations for in-depth reading of a clinical nature

1. Schwartz LB: Diagnostic value of tryptase in anaphylaxis and mastocytosis. Immunol Allergy Clin North Am 2006;26:451-463

2. Payne V, Kam PC: Mast cell tryptase: a review of its physiology and clinical significance. Anaesthesia 2004;59:695-703